Meet Marquee Man

New Edmonton Oiler Chris Pronger signs autographs at a season ticket promotion over the weekend....

New Edmonton Oiler Chris Pronger signs autographs at a season ticket promotion over the weekend. (Sun Media/David Bloom)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

He'll dispense with formalities like coughing for the doctors, weighing in and pumping the stationary bike when the Edmonton Oilers report for medicals and fitness testing at the University of Alberta this morning.

We'll have to wait a bit longer to see how Chris Pronger is at carrying the hopes of a franchise and the expectations of Oiler fans on his shoulders as the biggest name on the marquee in this town since Doug Weight bid farewell.

Given Pronger's pedigree - stop the presses, the 2000 winner of the Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy as MVP with the St. Louis Blues is pretty good - he'll seize the opportunity and run with it.

He's ready, if you are.

"I'm excited to be getting back on the ice and playing hockey," said Pronger. "It's a new team, a fresh start. I look forward to having a lot of success here ... let's get camp started and get going."

To state the obvious, Pronger's the real deal. The three-time all-star plays 30 minutes a night. He's tough and talented. He makes teammates better.

First and foremost, Pronger is a winner. He makes the Oilers contenders, right now.

GM Kevin Lowe paid a steep price to pry Pronger out of St. Louis, sending Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch to the Show Me State, then inking the 30-year-old to a five-year deal for $31.25 million - the richest contract in the history of this franchise.

"The biggest thing I can do is continue to play the way I have throughout my career," said Pronger, who made the playoffs in every one of his nine years wearing the Bluenote.

"Just be consistent. Be the guy back there each and every night I play.

WINS AND LOSSES

"It's not about how many points I get. It's how many points the Oilers get. It's about wins and losses and the team."

Pronger's resume, alone, makes him worth every penny.

Ask around, and you'll find out - a chat with Weight in St. Louis a couple of years ago comes to mind - there's more to No. 44.

For all his awards and accolades, Pronger is a "we-guy" not a "me-guy."

"If getting me and Michael Peca allows the rest of the guys to feel like we have a better chance, then you've won part of the battle because you're gaining confidence," Pronger said.

"It's the mental approach to the game, where you know you can win every single game. You don't think you can, you know you can."

LIVING IN A HOTEL

Pronger is still settling into town.

Holed up in a hotel, Pronger and wife Lauren, along with sons Jack and George, will move into a new home on the south side later this month.

It won't take nearly as long for Pronger to make himself at home in the Oilers dressing room.

"You hate to play against him, but you love to have him on your team," said Ryan Smyth, mugged by Pronger as often as anybody in front of the net. "I have a lot of respect for Chris.

"With his experience, leadership and ability, he takes our team to another level.

"He makes a huge impact. I've heard nothing but good things about him since my brother Kevin played with him in Hartford back in the day."

Second among NHL defencemen in 2003-04 with 54 points - 31 of those came on the power play - Pronger spent the lockout recuperating from a decade of wear and tear.

While he played 80 games with the Blues the season before the lockout, the year off helped.

He played just five games in 2002-03 after surgery on his left wrist and right knee.

Physically, he's ready to rumble.

With introductions behind him and the expectations of a hockey town ahead, Pronger will make his on-ice debut at camp tomorrow in a pairing with Marc-Andre Bergeron for Team Blue.

"Part of the mystique the Oilers have had is it's a close bunch of guys," said Pronger, who heard all about Edmonton from Weight.

"I know they had fun before, but they were losing.

"Nothing makes the game more fun than winning."


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